The Trinity County grand jury in June recommended that the Board of Supervisors dissolve its two-member ad hoc cannabis committee and instead establish “an open, transparent standing committee” by September to continue working on local commercial cannabis regulations.
As proposed by the grand jury, the committee would consist of Planning, District Attorney and Sheriff’s office representatives and members of the public including growers and non-growers.
Last week, the Trinity County Board of Supervisors was divided over the recommendation in a proposed response to the grand jury drafted by Sup. Judy Morris. She has served with Sup. Keith Groves as the cannabis ad hoc committee since it was created in 2016 to craft the county’s commercial cannabis cultivation ordinance and later amendments to it.
As board members John Fenley and Bobbi Chadwick pushed to support the grand jury recommendation and dissolve the cannabis ordinance ad hoc as well as others created later, Groves pushed for at least a delay in approving the board’s response to the grand jury.
He argued that dissolving the cannabis ad hoc committee now “would have a monstrous impact to the cannabis community and slow the process down. I ask to continue so the cannabis community has a chance to comment.”
In the end, his motion to table the board’s response to a date uncertain passed unanimously.
Of the response drafted by Morris, Sup. Fenley said he “isn’t happy with this one. I feel you gave out way too much information, almost like you took it personally rather than just answering the question.”
Morris said she felt the grand jury was lacking information “they needed to have.”
The lengthy draft response says the grand jury’s recommendation would not be implemented because it is not warranted, and the ad hoc has been meeting as allowed by law, initially to fill a gap created by the county’s lack of a county administrative officer needed to help implement the state’s complicated new cannabis laws that are continually evolving.
The draft response blames the grand jury’s use of the word “secrecy” in its report on a “misunderstanding of the process” in that ad hoc recommendations ultimately wind up before the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in public sessions.
Regarding the grand jury’s other recommendations to establish variable nuisance fines to deter cannabis code violations and to contract for aerial mapping services, the draft response says the first is based on misinformation about the ad hoc committee’s relationship to code enforcement, and that both recommendations require further analysis.
Fenley and Chadwick were in favor of adopting the second and third part of the draft response, but not the first.
Groves argued that large, standing committees of 10 or 14 people have not been successful in the county’s past, citing a 15-member general plan advisory committee “that spent a quarter of a million dollars just to create a mission statement. I think to create a monstrous standing committee of 15 people would be disastrous to the grow community and to everybody else.”
He added “it is ludicrous to sink the ship when we’re just about to dock it and call it a day.”
Morris agreed that nearly 90 percent of the work is finished, but the county’s cannabis program has been waiting nearly a year for the ordinance to address license “stacking” and to “throw it out now is ludicrous.”
Fenley made a motion to adopt the board response except to dissolve the cannabis ad hocs working on ordinance amendments, legislative oversight and retail ordinance. Chadwick made the second, at which point Groves made a subsequent motion to table the item to a later date.
From the audience, John Brower of Junction City argued that dissolving the ad hoc would deal “a giant, catastrophic blow to the program, switching horses in the middle of the river when you’re so close to the bank. This should be a separate agenda item to dissolve ad hocs. I think it would be a big mistake, especially without something else in place.”
Fenley argued the county now has staff on board, including a new planning director, to take the lead and finish the work.
Brower responded that the new planning director “is a brilliant woman, but she’s just getting up to speed and knows nothing of the history. Industry input is essential. I strongly encourage continuance of this item instead of sinking the progress made so far, unless that’s your goal.”
County Counsel Margaret Long advised the board that the action before it involved only a response to the grand jury report. If it is the board’s recommendation to dissolve the ad hoc, it would have to come back on a future agenda to do that.
On a related item, the board approved a response to the grand jury on a different topic: county road maintenance issues. The response was drafted by Sup. Fenley, agreeing in large part with the grand jury’s recommendations to improve public communication of available funding and future road maintenance plans, budget priorities and development of a comprehensive complaint procedure.